kiskiKAHANI (the Ramayana Project)

300 Ramayanas and Counting . . .
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An Interview with Romila Thapar

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‘Will they bash up universities in Jakarta and other places for teaching different versions of the Ramayana?’ – An interview with noted historian Romila Thapar. The controversial decision earlier this month by the Academic Council of Delhi University to drop A.K. Ramanujan’s celebrated essay on the Ramayana, Three Hundred Ramayanas: Five Examples and Three Thoughts on Translations from the B.A. History (Honours) course has evoked sharp protests from several historians and other scholars. Coming three years after the Hindutva student body, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), vandalised DU’s History department to protest against the teaching of this essay, the decision has been criticised as a surrender of academic freedom in the face of political pressure. Romila Thapar, the foremost authority on early Indian history, spoke to Priscilla Jebaraj about the decision, its adverse consequences for scholarship and knowledge, and the efforts by vested interests to project one version of Hindu cultural heritage and religious tradition over all others. You have said that this issue is not purely about history and academia simply because it involves the Delhi University’s History Department and Academic Council, but that there’s a political background to it. I think there’s a political background to it because the initial attack against this essay [in 2008] was led by the ABVP which made sure that TV cameras had begun to roll when they carried out the attack, so that it would be properly recorded. Their demand was … Continue reading

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